Report of Lesley's Visit to South Africa, February 2008

My recent visit to South Africa was really good, heart warming and positive. It is amazing to me that for 2008 we are planning, or have planned, over 20 projects, some small and some really substantial. Again, my trip was paid for by a generous donor who only gives funds for my travel, and my regular visiting and support for local partners brings trust and a desire to develop new ideas and projects that can help in the battle to reduce child abuse.

So, in mid February, I went out of the cold and damp and gloom of a British February and into the bright glorious warm sunshine in Johannesburg. At the airport there is improvement indeed, and it is now possible to see the ‘grand plan’ for the whole airport by the 2010 World Cup – progress is impressive although somewhat spoilt by a power outage when I arrived.

During my stay I visited all our partners and reviewed progress in our projects of last year and confirmed the work for this year. All our work, and all the money we spend, is tied up in very specific projects that conform to our intent to fund training, safe places for small children, research and awareness and occasional ad hoc grants. With my trusty driver Pierre, who now knows all our projects and all the folk involved [another recruit to the ‘cause’!] we visited 12 different centres and covered over 2,000 miles often along roads that are poorly maintained and where it is recommended we DO NOT get out of the car.

I always read the papers in SA when I visit and each time there are heart rending stories of the increasing abuse of small children, this time I even managed to get some fairly reliable statistics that indicate that every ¼hr of every day of every week a small child is raped or seriously abused. This is 2yr olds, 3yr olds, 5yr olds and often babies under 1 year – the ages of my grandchildren. Quite, quite shocking.

As we now have this astonishing number of 20+ projects this year, it is too much to detail them all, so I’ll just highlight a couple of new projects I visited:


After a morning visiting the smarter side of Soweto, seeing Nelson Mandela’s and Desmond Tutu’s houses and the Hector Peterson museum [well worth a visit] I visited our friends in a much poorer area of Soweto confirming the next steps in a project we have developed with Nobs Mwanda, the inspiration behind COPES-SA.

COPES was set up in 2005 [like us] to specifically identify and work with local communities to try and prevent the growing horrors of child abuse; they do this by identifying and treating children who have been abused and working with children, families and the community many of which are completely fractured by AIDs.

We supported COPES in 2007 but in 2008 we are pump-priming a completely new project designed specifically to work in a recently formed squatter camp where there are no services and that is comprised of disparate migrant groups from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Swaziland, as well as many other parts of South Africa. There is no work; they often have no papers, and not much hope. Crime, violence, poverty and illness are rife; from nothing there are currently thought to be between 2,000 and 3,000 people living there.

We are funding the stipends and training of 8 volunteers, initially for a year, to identify and work with ‘at risk’ families and vulnerable children – a silly phrase really as all the families are ‘at risk’ and all small children here are ‘vulnerable’, but the volunteers will try to identify where are the worst problems and then support the families as best they can supported, themselves, by doctor and social worker from COPES and lots of training by an expert child abuse centre and in a programme we have devised with the specialists.

Childline, Limpopo, SA

In Limpopo province, a largely rural area lodged between Johannesburg and Zimbabwe, the population is decimated from AIDS, poverty and migration; there are now thought to be more children than adults and there is the highest incidence of child-headed families in the whole country.

Here we have been working with Childline to set up a nursery [an Early Childhood Development Centre {ECDC}] for very vulnerable small children in an extremely rural and poverty stricken area. Last year we gave Childline a grant to help get the ECDC off the ground; they have been so successful that this year we are providing funds to supplement the stipends for the four volunteers who run the centre, funds for their training and a grant for toys and equipment.

When the ECDC was proposed it was started with 12 children, and thought to be able to take 25 children. In the latter part of 2007 they had to move from one donated building to another as the numbers had grown to 40 everyday. When I visited this time, there were 65 children on the books and there seemed to be small children everywhere. The children here receive two meals a day 5 days a week, some basic development and are kept safe. This is very good, but many don’t eat from Friday afternoon again until Monday morning the poverty is so great, and many of these children are being abused by someone – it is so obvious and it makes me both very angry and very determined.

These two projects, one rural, one urban, exemplify the kind of local projects we are keen to set-up and continue to support. They fit into our aim to concentrate on training, supporting safe havens, research and awareness and ad hoc grants. All partners report regularly accounting for the funds and detailing progress; I visit every project three times a year – sometimes more often – and whilst it has taken a while for many of our partners to understand how we work they have all now taken to it with relish.

Each time I visit I am so impressed with our SA partners; they are dedicated, committed and highly motivated people who are working so very hard to try to help vulnerable children and families and reduce the abuse of children, of small children. Too often they feel as if they are working alone or without much appreciation of the difficulties they face everyday. What they need is help, encouragement and support …. not just blind handouts and it is a privilege to meet and work with them and offer some support.

I came home, as always, thrilled to be home, back to see my own gorgeous grandchildren and determined to do whatever it takes to raise more funds to support more schemes to protect more infants and small children from the scourge of abuse.

Lesley Rudd
Chief Executive
the infant trust

Our project locations

Map of South Africa

We are not sending any more toys to South Africa. If you would like to donate then please contact the lovely people at:

We are proud and honoured that our work has been recognised by the UK Prime Minister, and that he has given Lesley his Point of Light award, stating
With the Infant Trust Lesley has empowered thousands of women across South Africa to protect and safeguard children in their communities. The education and training she has provided has helped to improve the lives of over 800,000 children, tackling the violence and abuse that affects too many of them in their early years. As we mark International Women’s Day this week I am delighted to recognise all that Lesley has done.”
You can find the full story at
Why are so many small children abused by male perpetrators in South Africa? Our researcher interviewed 27 perpetrators in prison in South Africa; all are in jail after being found guilty of some of the most terrible crimes against some of the most vulnerable children – some as young as a few days old. Those interviewed are all men aged between 16 years and 84 years old, and all have brutalised and raped at least one child. But the findings aren’t maybe what we might expect – it makes interesting reading.  We have been funding research into this for 5 years and it is finally finished and published .

Our flagship Caring for Crèches programme has reached into some of the poorest communities in five of the nine provinces in South Africa and we have crèche leaders everywhere clamouring for the training. We have now trained over 2,200 people and they in turn have already positively impacted on the lives of over 160,000 children … and will continue to help many hundreds more children for years to come